Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Card CDs :: 2006



This year the game was on. I knew that I enjoyed hearing how my family appreciated the cds so I took it on the next year. I kept the same kind of layout - an envelope fold with an opening, but this time I added another slip of paper to protect the CD. It also had a ribbon to make it look even more finished. I think this is the year I really realized this was a tradition I wanted to carry out for a while to come.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Card CDs :: 2005

Since 2005 I have done something that has become something that I'm pretty excited to share. At the time I was living away from my family in Orlando, Florida. I wanted to get something for everyone in my family, but had very limited resources (aka. the moneys) so I decided to try to get creative. Because of my limited resources, I would check out music from the public library to enjoy. I came up with the idea to utilize this wonderful resource the government offers us to create a cumulative christmas CD of some of my favorite music to send to each of my family members. It didn't take too long that year to come up with a few of my favorites at the time, and I decided to package them with some of the paper and supplies I had at the time.

Since then, I have carried the tradition from year to year until 2012. Last year was my first year that I didn't create a new CD due to the cost and time it takes to produce. From year to year I learned that the best time to start listening to music to get a jump on the newest music was Halloween! Not the most ideal time to feel like listening to Christmas music, but it definitely took the pressure off getting the project done in time when starting that early.

Each year it was quite the challenge coming up with a cost effective way to produce what turned into about 75 to 100 copies from year-to-year. Some years I printed on my own, and others I was able to find printers with reasonable prices. If anything, I hope this gives you some ideas on some awesome christmas music and a collection that I'm proud to call some of my favorites.

So here it goes! Now until Christmas, I'm going to release posts of the song lists along with the designs of what my Christmas CDs evolved into.

Let me know what you think!


This year is probably the most 'thrown-together' version. I probably sent out no more than 20; this year was more for immediate family and contained more of a personal note than a focus on design.

I must have really liked Harry Connick, Jr.'s Winter Wonderland, because I just realized I put it on there twice! Goes to show I'm not an editor - just a designer :)

Music Links:
1. All I Want for Christmas is You :: Mariah Carey
2. Christmas All Over Again :: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
3. Little Drummer Boy :: Jars of Clay
4. Joy to the World :: Aretha Franklin & Fame Freedom Choir
5. Jingle Bells :: Natalie Cole
6. Please Come Home for Christmas :: Southside Johnny Lyon
7. What Christmas Means to Me :: Stevie Wonder
8. It Must Have Been ol' Santa Clause :: Harry Connick, Jr.
9. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas :: Mel Torme
10. Holiday Flight :: John Williams
11. Winter Wonderland :: Harry Connick, Jr.
12. Do You Hear What I Hear? :: Third Day
13. All Along On Christmas :: Darlene Love
14. Carol of the Bells :: John Williams
15. Let It Snow :: Michael Bublé
16. O Holy Night :: Martina McBride
17. White Christmas :: The Drifters
18. Grown-Up Christmas List :: Michael Bublé
19. Winter Wonderland :: Harry Connick, Jr.
20. Where are you Christmas? :: Faith Hill
21. Song for a Winter's Night :: Sarah McLachlan
22. We Wish You a Merry Christmas :: John Williams
23. Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays :: 'N Sync

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Name-card Holders

One of the more ambitious projects from our wedding were the name-card holders. I wanted to do something to do with pears (Chad and I being the 'perfect pair' and all). Initially I wanted real pears, but a trip to the grocery store to check availability and prices ruled that out right away. I probably could have researched more into other options for this (i.e. local farms), but decided that having another vendor to deal/worry about was not something I wanted.

A major factor in my decision making was wether or not it was something that would be able to be done ahead of time, or that needed to be done the week of the wedding. Organizing the purchase of pears and trying to do my flowers on my own were both ruled out pretty quickly. Not because it couldn't have been done, but more-so because I didn't want to have to deal with rushing around or things going wrong at the last minute that I could not control. j I found an amazing florist locally that had great prices that were about the same as ordering the flowers from Sam's club and putting the bouquets together myself. I think they did an amazing job - my bouquet was amazing!

Back to my project - I initially found a recipe for a flour clay online. Flour is cheap and the clay worked pretty well. My concern was cracking (they didn't always bake all that evenly) and some were still raw. If someone wants to keep this for years to come, I didn't want it to be growing things that would make people have to throw them away.

Sculpey clay it is! I priced all sorts of clay online, and this was the cheapest with the best look. I never buy anything online without discounts or coupons, so I actually got a pretty good deal. I bought about 16 lbs of clay for 150 people. We ended up only having 110 people at the wedding, so we had more than enough.

The process of the pears started with sculpting and pressing Chad and my initials into our pear. I also stuck a toothpick in the top to create the divot for the stem to come. When I began I didn't know what I was going to use, but I came across these awesome photo-holder sticks from the scrapbooking section of the craft-shop.

Chad and I making the larger pears for our cake-topper.

You can tell the ones that Chad made - they were a little taller and leaner.
I like that we had a bunch of different shapes in the mix.
The second part of the process was the paint job. I mixed a lime-green with a touch of brown to get the color I wanted. I loved how bright these pears turned out, but they still seemed to be missing something. Doing another step to all 150 pears is quite the commitment, but once I tested one it was definitely the better and more finished version; so one more round of painting it was. This wasn't as difficult because it was more of a glaze process than a painting. I had this amazing glaze paint that I used from my Magnetic Chalkboard post. All it took was a bit of a rub into the initials and on the pear to give it a bit more realistic and dimensional finish. Finally, I added a sculpey glaze. They really finished them off, but also made them really durable.

Overall I was so happy with how these turned out. It was quite the time commitment, but this was really the one signature piece from the wedding that I wanted to commit to. Reasonings being that I thought they would look really cool on the tables and they would be a cool take-home for the family. I know - why would people want to keep a pear that says J+C. True - the probably chucked them right when they walked in the door. I'm sure a hand-full were kept - those people can stick our christmas card or our wedding photo in them... or they can turn them 180 degrees around and have a cute pear decoration.

The way I see it, the wedding projects are a major waste of time being they are used for only one day. That being said, every bride usually has at least one project I'm sure for some reason they feel worthwhile. Hope you enjoy mine :)

Mixing the paint color.
I mixed one batch so I wouldn't have to try to match the color again later on.

Baked and painted for the first round.
I thought I was done, but decided to take it a step further.


I recommend using rubber gloves.
That way goes a lot faster and you don't have to be as careful.

I like to refer to them as my minions...

Final glaze added to seal the deal!
Final Name-card holders

Final Cake-topper Pears

Friday, November 15, 2013

Wedding Snippet

Here is a little video to share of the day. It is such a special memory and I'm so grateful for this video that shows us all on Chad and my day. We don't have many videos, so I'm glad to have this to someday show our kids.


The Malm Wedding from Capture House Video on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our Thumbprint Tree Guestbook

One of my favorite keepsakes from the wedding is our Thumbprint Tree guestbook. If you have seen in the past, I've done a couple for other weddings. I've always known the tree that I wanted to mimic for my own - it is a tree I see everyday out front of the Red Gym on UW campus.

I love that it's more horizontal - something I haven't seen a lot of other designs. Plus, I've always loved this tree; So cute like a ginormous sized bonsai tree. It's pretty special to glance over at the tree and see all the people who came to our wedding. Everyone did a great job completing this piece of art for us.

Here is a tip - if you do one for your wedding (which I highly recommend) get the frame first so you know what size works best. Also factor in the amount of people coming to your wedding. All you have to do is remove the glass and the image is more protected and easier to transport. Plus, it's fool-proof that people will make a print within the frame; not having it framed before you risk people printing off the page.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Married and Back to Reality!

Long time no write!

I was all pumped when I got engaged... for obvious reasons, but also because I knew it would help bring so many projects for me to blog about! But, then I realized that I didn't want all my projects posted before the wedding because then the people come to the wedding wouldn't be surprised thus taking away some of the magical experience that comes from the day. Also, when you do a lot of the projects for your wedding day yourself, it really is all-consuming. My nights and weekends were not about anything other than wedding projects and events and meetings with vendors.

I'm excited to now to be able to reveal these projects - please check back for the postings to come!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Infused Strawberry Vodka Press

So, you've now got your Strawberry Infused Vodka sitting, taunting you to drink it. I couldn't wait the full 3 days for it to infuse. The second day, Friday, I tapped that puppy and mixed away!

So, the drink of choice that I've been addicted to is about as easy as the infusing process. All you need is your vodka, 7-up (or Sprite if you prefer), Club soda, a lime and ice. "Press" in the bar world is a mixture of half 7-up and half club soda. So, I pour the amount of vodka I want over a cup full of ice (about 1-2 oz or shots of vodka) and finish the rest with half-and-half of the sodas. 

Strawberry Vodka Press:
• Ice
• 1-2 oz infused strawberry Vodka
• half 7-up
• half club soda
• Lime Wedge

The batch I made wasn't super sweet, so I went a little heavier on the 7-up than the club soda. I then finished off with a lime wedge. It is the best summer drink; so refreshing and light!

There you have it! An easy 2-step process! Oh, and get creative with your strawberry vodka! Here is another recipe to try if you are a fan of Ginger ale:

Strawberry Vodka Ginger Cooler:
• 1 ½ ounces strawberry-infused vodka
• 1 ½ ounces ginger ale
• Seltzer water


Friday, July 19, 2013

Strawberry Infused Vodka; 'nuff said!

Ah summer! The time for fun and relaxation! And also great beverages. I'm typically a beer girl, but in the summer when the heat is on, I like a bit more refreshing and lighter beverage. One of my favorite go-to places is a bar called The City in downtown Madison on State Street. Its not a place you would think to go because it's in the basement and is dark with low ceilings. But this bar makes their own Strawberry infused vodka that makes your trip out of the sun so worth the while. I like to go when it's really hot out so you don't feel so bad sitting in the dark cave-like setting.

My co-worker introduced me to the best drink every - the Strawberry Vodka Press.  I've gotta say - it's my new go-to summer drink. The $6 price tag is a bit more than I like to spend per drink, but it's worth the splurge. Since strawberries are so cheap right now I googled the recipe for infused strawberry vodka. Turns out it's ridiculously easy to make!

Alright - stay with me... you clean and cut up strawberries, fill a container with them, and pour vodka in the same container. Did you get all that? There are recipes online, but I just filled the container with strawberries, and topped it off with as much vodka as could fit in the container.

I'm fortunate to have these amazing ball jars that I inherited. They are the tinted blue colored ones with the mercury tops - one of my favorite things that I own! 

If you are particular with your vodka - be sure to use your favorite brand. I'm more after the budget friendly - so I used what I had in my stock. I'm not very picky when it comes to vodka.

Oh, store in a cool and dark place for 3 days. Agitate the containers a couple of times throughout the day if you get the chance. My jars weren't that seal-proof, so I threw a piece of saran wrap under the tops.

I could only wait 2 days to crack my first jar... sad, right? The recipe I found said to stream through a coffee filter. I was too lazy to look for one so I grabbed some paper towels. Learn from me - I don't recommend using paper towels. Know those annoying commercials bragging of being super observant? Well, I want to get the most vodka as I can out of this recipe - and I'm guessing there was more leftover vodka in these towels than there needed to be!

Ah, sweet strawberry vodka goodness! Now for the drink recipe! More to come - check back.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Small Apartments a Good Thing?

I've been loving my apartment for almost two years now. I love the location, which is my reasoning for some of the luxuries I have sacrificed (like a washer/dryer & dishwasher). It is within walking distance to many amazing restaurants, places (like the local zoo), and my work. I can't say enough about being able to walk to work - the amount of road rage I have avoided through this time has probably shaved me about five years of aging.

I also enjoy the charm of my neighborhood. It is full of lots of large trees, and homes that are at least 100 years old. It never gets old walking through the neighborhoods come rain, snow or shine.

Now for the down-falls of a small apartment. I love being organized, but when you don't feel like you have room to sprawl out, say for organizing papers, or doing a craft, stretching, or yoga. I definitely have learned that I need a place with enough space somewhere where I can lay on the floor and do a snow-angel! Otherwise it feels a bit confining and claustrophobic over time.

Why am I venting? Chad recently found himself homeless for a month due to a miscommunication from a landlord. We didn't want to move in together before the wedding, but didn't have much of a choice given the situation and timing. I wouldn't say Chad moved in... he took over about 40% of my closet space (which were maxed out anyways); everything else went to storage. It was a great challenge for us - my place, at 600 sq ft, is cramped anyways with one person. So, we learned to live with the clutter for the short 30-day time-span. At first I was "can you pick up your clothes" and he was "do you have to leave that there" but then we realized the situation was hopeless and we both accept living 'hoarder-like" for the time being.

We are both fairly neat people. I live by the rule "a place for everything, everything in its place", but when you don't have a place for everything to begin with it feels a bit overwhelming. It is a good lesson, though. I tried to imagine what we would do if this was a permanent living situation... we definitely would be purging a lot of things. I'm not one for clutter, but the downsizing made me feel like I had so many unnecessary kick-knacks.

Once we move to our new place when we are married, our stuff should fit much better without being bare nor excessive. It's not huge - about 1000 sq ft, and we still will probably purge things here-and-there (yay Craigslist!), but it is a great lesson to not have a desire to accumulating stuff. Over time this can be so easy to do! You see that cute vase, or there's that amazing deal on that little side-table, but living more simple and basic can be very freeing! It also is great when going to Target (such a dangerous place!) You see all that great seasonal decor, dishes, and furniture and think "that would be so great to have in my place!" But, then you realize you can't even find a place to put down your drink so it becomes much easier to walk away.

Chad is now moved out and my place feels SO much bigger! I've been cleaning out my closet and purging clothes and whatever I can. Getting rid of things feels so good - especially in the bathroom. Do you really need that 10 year old perfume? Boy, it's so easy to forget how long you've actually been holding on to some of the things you have. I'm working on getting rid of all those hotel shampoos I've been accumulating through the years. In theory they are great, but when it comes down to it - I don't actually use them all that much. Do I really need to hold on to the 30 bottles I've gathered? So I pick my few favorite and get rid of the rest.

I'm pumped to really take advantage of my own place for the little time I have left. Moving in with Chad will be wonderful, but I'm really relishing the little time I have to really make this place my own! Now, what to get rid of next...?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day :: Celebrating Through Cooking

In honor of Mother's day I wanted to share a recent even that was very special to me and my family. My grandmother is native to Poland and had many great recipes growing up. She never really taught us how to cook certain ones while she was alive, so I was grateful when my aunt and cousin set a plan for us to cooking perogies, one of my favorite foods growing up. They are basically a stuffed dumpling. Our favorite was always potato, but as I got older I really enjoyed the sauerkraut as well.

My cousin and aunt prepared the stuffing the night before so we could focus on the perogie making. I've been told it's a lengthy process so we didn't always get to have them - Grandma would make them a couple of times a year and pack us a bunch to freeze when we would visit. After making these I definitely gained much more appreciation for her labor of love. It's a recipe definitely better to tackle with a team since each one is done by hand.

Patience is key... to making the dough so it doesn't get too tough. And, closing each of the pouches can be challenging. The secret is to make sure the stuffing is as dry as you can get it. Moisture or juice makes it difficult to seal them. 

So here is a bit of my family recipe. It's not exact because it's one of those recipes that was memorized and not really written down. My family sort of approximated to what looks good... I have to say, the secret is the butter bath. That really gives them that great flavor. Do not substitute... if you're going to make these, you have to go all out.

The filling is all prepared and for the stuffing.

Create a volcano of flour and slowly add the ingredients. Mix by hand until it forms the dough.

My aunt is a true pro - she takes her time kneading until everything is blended.
Once dough is formed, divide in half and cover part not used while forming the perogies.

We rolled out and cut circles with a glass.
They are about 2 inches wide and have some thickness for stretching.

And we're off! It is a slow process, but practice makes perfect.

It takes quite a while to get this many, but then it's time for the water bath and then the butter bath.

Once the Perogies float to the top in the boiling water bath,
it's time to strain off the water and give them the butter bath.

After a few batches, it's good to start with new water again. Remember - be sure to use real butter.

Three generations to hopefully keep the tradition going!

The butter bath.

I've never had a Perogie so fresh. There is nothing better!

I'm enjoying every bite!

Potato Stuffing

8 potatoes
1 large onion, yellow
Ricotta Cheese

Boil potatoes and mash with cooked onion and ingredients, to taste. Make sure cool for filling.

Sauerkraut Stuffing

2 bags of kraut (32oz)
Ricotta cheese
1 large onion
3 chicken bullion cubes

Cook sauerkraut for one hour in chicken bullion with water. Make sure to drain extremely well. Add other ingredients, mix and cool.


7 cups flour (Ceresota)
2 eggs
4 tbs butter
1/3 cup of cream cheese
Sour Cream
2 tsp salt
2 cups warm water

Mix dough by hand. Do not over mix. Wrap in plastic if not making right away so it does not dry out.


Enjoy and Happy Mother's Day :)

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